Chapter Fifty Five - The Actor

From my eyes

The funeral was held in Martinique.
Armand Laker's first wife was
buried there.

Despite the fact he was currently
married, (I think he'd been married
three or four times) his Will
specified he be buried beside her.

We're not sure exactly when he died, only recently the body arrived, the
arrangements made.

I attended, but felt a bastard at a family reunion, though I should be there.

Mr. Laker had given me my 'chance', though that's not how it rated on my
scorecard. I didn't want to play barbarians or aliens, I wanted to be a
'street clothes' actor.

At Ramala Acting Academy our instructors were clear about what constitutes
serious acting and what was 'part playing'.

Aliens and barbarians were part playing.

I suppose being tall, with an exotic appearance, well built, condemned me to
these kinds of roles. Though proud of my character on 'Live Again', it seemed
not to 'count'.

Mr. Laker had dismissed it and me, as if appearing on a 'Soap' was no different
from a commercial for drain cleaner where I portrayed the second man on the left.

I realise now, had I been avid, I'd have gained the role of Tamerlane. Another
actor would rue it, as the film of the same name had won Best Picture and all
three of the supporting actors had been nominated, and Dimitri had won.

Had I taken the role, I doubt, with my best efforts, I'd have been nominated.
Critics don't see cartoons, they see roles.

If I had been offered one of the supporting roles, where I had to build a character
from sketches, I would have accepted, but I don't favour period pieces. They are
more costume and manners than serious acting.

As Passing Perfect was Mr. Laker's last work it would get more attention than it
might have otherwise, but perhaps the war, and how he died, and all the myths
and rumours, were enough to catapult it to fame.

I was recognisable now, but not part of the elite. They swarmed as ravens in their
black, photographers snapping, giving me one or two notes out of courtesy.
I suppose.

Although I was his latest 'find' and should milk it for what it was worth, I felt an
interloper.

No one talked to me beyond;
"Oh, yes, I saw you in Passing Perfect,"
and I would blush, because they did see me, all of me.
They saw me.
They didn't comment on my acting, for there wasn't much of that. Just a lot
of nudity.

I left the funeral, walked along the beach.

Reflections

I was dressed in a very light weight suit of dark grey. I took off the jacket to
reveal a white vest, the sand too hot for me to remove my shoes.

With my bulky arms exposed, I thought of Doug Hooker. When he was being a Eugenic.

What he did, which I found so remarkable, was that when he was in 'character',
he would look at his body with admiration. He'd study himself, with a kind of lust/
love/pride, as an artist would admire a statue.

Walking along the shore, seeing my arm, I could emulate that self-love which,
according to Doug, was part of the Eugenic DNA.
But I wasn't a Gennie.
I was an actor, coerced into playing a Gennie, more fascinated by watching
Hooker morph. His ability to go from average to Perfect so that people, so that
women, believed it. Actually believed he was a Eugenic.

When he'd come into the studio's cottage a bit mangy, I didn't know who or
what he was. He seemed unconcerned about his appearance or anyone's
opinion of him.

Within a week he was a 'jock', beefed up, sharp. In two weeks he was a Gennie.
His behaviour, his speech, everything about him changed.

He wasn't an actor, he claimed to be a professor of archaeology, but he
had turned into the character far better than I could imagine. Far better
than I, with all my 'training', all my experience, could accomplish.

What I did, what I, this 'serious actor', David Wong Pine, did, was impersonate
Doug Hooker. That was the extent of my acting in Passing Perfect; imitating
Doug Hooker.

I hoped he'd attend the funeral. I liked him, felt closer to him than I did to anyone else who'd arrived to pay their respects to Mr. Laker. If Doug had been here, I wouldn't have felt a freak. For that is how I felt, how I often felt. A freak.

I walked along, alone, no one on this stretch of beach, and I pondered my future. I was in proper funerary mood but not because I was mourning Mr. Laker, I was trying to find purchase in my life.

I had imagined myself playing romantic leads or strong characters, not Ji Tewka nor a Eugenic, but the common man beset by common events, where my acting could be showcased.

And I ask myself, could I really act?
Did I have talent?
Or was I fooling myself.

The sun was hot, I felt drained. I saw a bench beneath a tree behind a gate.
Seeing no one, I opened the gate, entered. I didn't notice the small cottage
hidden by trees. I sat on the weathered stone bench and looked into myself.
I didn't know who or what I was.

Confusion

I didn't understand why I'd left
Caravansary why I thought
Tom Bean a real role or why
I felt false playing a Eugenic.

Why I mentally rejected what
might have been my destiny,
and why when gaining it, I felt
undeserving, so wrong.

I had put everything I had into Vin Ramble, living the role thinking I'd get a real part, and getting Ji Tewka. But wasn't that a real role? Hadn't that been more than Tom Bean?

I didn't know and tears fell. I don't know if they were theatrical or coming from my soul, and if asked why I was crying, I couldn't answer.

"Why are you crying?"

This wasn't a voice from my imagination.

I turned, blinked my eyes to clear them, wiped my face. This was now, this real. A very tan woman with startling gray eyes held a baby. She stood not six feet from me, peering without fear, perhaps curiosity?

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I am...David Wong Pine."

"What are you doing here?"

"I..I'm sorry. I...I was at a funeral...and...I..."

"Oh, you're one of the actors," she said as if solving a puzzle. "I wondered about
you, what you were."

"I'm not a Gennie."

"I realised that," she said with a hint of condescension.

"I was in a movie, playing a Gennie. No, I mean, playing a normal who tried...
who did... pass as a Gennie."

"Only one man did that, to my knowledge."

"You know Doug Hooker?" I exclaimed.

With that, she stepped back, as if afraid, moved the baby from one arm
to another, but kept staring into my face.

"You have to leave," she demanded.

Talking

For a moment the funk that had been departing crashed back with great force.

"Can't you let me sit here another minute?"

"You knew Armand Laker...yes, I understand."

I shook my head,
"No, that's not how it is.
It is that I don't know myself.
Who I am, what I am supposed
to be, what tomorrow will look like."

"You're not alone," she tosses,perching on the arm of the bench, looking down at me. The baby also looked at me. It had dark eyes, and that secret wisdom one sometimes sees in infants, as if inside of that helpless body is a long departed sage.

"Right now", I admit, "although you are here, I am very much alone. There is no
where I have to be, no one waiting."

"I say, you're not the only one," she replies, "and you are better than most."

Again I shook my head, the long braids slapping me. I shoved them out of the way.

"They aren't real," I tell her, indicating the braids, "but I felt as Mr. Laker had cast
me as a Gennie, had wanted me to be a Gennie, I'd stay 'in character' for his funeral."

"You do look almost like a Gennie. I thought you were, until I neared."

"What gave me away?"

She glanced at the baby, then to me, "Your...vibe. You didn't put off a Gennie vibe."

I was going to ask her if she had met Gennies, but just as she had turned frosty
when I mentioned Doug, she would withdraw if I dared the question. Instead, I
spoke of myself.

"Mr. Laker had seen me in Caravansary ..."

"Oh, yes, it comes on here at six o'clock. I've seen it. You're Ji Tewka . That's a good role."

"I left it."

"Why? Oh, to play Tamerlane.. ."

"No, to take up a bit part in a day time serial called Live Again. "

"You left Caravansary for a soap? You must be insane."

"Mr. Laker thought so. He had almost offered me Tamerlane, but what I'd told
him made him retract. He bought the series, and made my character into a
digital representation, and used it in the movie."

"Oh?" she puzzled.

I nodded. "He wanted Ji Tewka for Tamerlane, and got Ji Tewka for Tamerlane."

"You're a masochist, did you know that?"

The words rolled off her tongue as if they'd sat there for a year. Because I didn't
speak, she continued;

"To leave a soap for any kind of program, from comedy to scifi to western is a step
up. No one is going to look for an actor in a soap because there is no acting. It's
all hammy melodrama."

I was going to speak, to explain, to dispute, but she continued;

"Caravansary...you were the show. There was no where to look, but at you.
I mean it. You had a power, a force; I'm not the kind to flatter."

With surprise I replied;

"That was Mr. Laker's sentiment. He hired me to play a normal passing for a
Gennie, and Doug Hooker to be my mentor." And softly, "But Doug was a
better Gennie than I."

"He had to be..." she began, then stopped, as if she'd reveal too much.
She knew Doug. Knew him well, and I looked again at the baby, who was
certainly not his.

She looked away, then back. Her eyes were very sharp and she had a kind
of certainty about her that Doug did. This knowledge of exactly who she was,
what she was, what she was capable of.

"Why are you afraid of playing the macho man? Ji Tewka, Tamerlane, a Gennie..."

"You don't know me." I charge

"No, I don't. Anymore than you know me. But I'm not trespassing in a
stranger's garden, alone on a bench, crying."

"I told you, I was at a funeral..."

"You also made it clear you weren't crying for the deceased."

"Who are you?" I ask.

She almost smiled, then; "No one in particular, now I have to go, and you have to go."

I didn't rise, I kept my eyes on her. She came off the arm of the bench, went along
the path into the cottage. She opened a door, shut it behind her,leaving me in a
rapidly darkening evening.


Going Back

The bench, the tree, the sound of the sea, which had seemed so welcoming mid afternoon, was now becoming spooky and mysterious.

I rose, went out, back along the beach, walking quickly, as darkness fell.

The woman had disoriented me, not just her questioning, but that she knew Doug,
and she had to know Eugenics.

I wanted to go back, talk to her, but was afraid. Afraid of the dark,
of the strangeness, of her dismissal, maybe of my own uncertainty.

Mr. Laker had been buried in a private plot behind a house he owned.
I was lucky to reach the back door before night truly descended.
The door was not yet locked.

As I entered, I heard voices and moved through empty rooms.
People were in the front room, drinking, eating, one was Elton Jax,
who had co-starred in Passing in the role of the man who'd hired me to pass.

"You can give me a lift back to the Hotel?" I say, with more force than I felt.

"I'm not ready," Jax replied, scarcely glancing at me.

I moved away, where I couldn't be seen. I found a phone, but didn't know
what number to call. I went through the front door, walked to the road, a
taxi man was waiting.

Whether for me or the others, it didn't matter. He took me to my hotel.
It was only when I was safely inside the air-conditioned room I lost the
sense of fear and dread and isolation that had ridden me all day.

Why had I left the drama for the soap?
For a soap where I wasn't even in the first batch of credits?
Why was I burying myself? Was I uncomfortable in my own skin?

I wish I had Doug's confidence...
I wish....

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